Technology to Manage Chronic DiseasesBy Alfonso Núñez | Wed, 02/16/2022 - 17:09
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the spotlight in health, chronic diseases continue being one of the largest crises populations worldwide are facing, said Omar Tomey, Medical Director, AbbVie Mexico, during Mexico Health Summit 2022.
Worldwide, chronic diseases cause 71 percent of deaths and are the primary cause of disability. In Mexico, 80 percent of deaths pre-pandemic were caused by a chronic disease and in 2021, over 1.5 million new cases were reported between January and June. The prevalence of chronic diseases is greatly influenced by overweight and age. In Mexico, 75 percent of the population is overweight or obese and the percentage of the population over 60 is expected to reach 30 percent by 2050 as life expectancy rises to 83 years. In 2019, obesity cut 2.1 percent of Mexico’s GDP through chronic diseases and its impact on the economy is only expected to keep increasing, according to the World Obesity Federation and the Research Triangle Institute.
Those who suffer from a chronic disease have to face challenges at every step of dealing with their disease. Delays in diagnostics range between seven and 10 years and Mexico has insufficient mechanisms for a timely referral among health institutions to collaborate in the diagnosis. Additionally, patients have to wait 4.3 years on average to access innovative medicines and have to spend large amounts of money as Mexicans spend 43 percent of their budgets on medical attention. These limitations only exacerbate the psychological and physical suffering patients are subjected to.
Although healthcare funding has greatly increased in the last two years, most of the money has been allocated to the fight against COVID-19. Meanwhile, Mexican healthcare still has to address historic problems. There are only 2.1 medics per 1,000 habitants and only 3 percent of the country’s hospitals are of high specialty. Additional challenges include the differences in the care provided by the public and private sectors and geographical barriers preventing 21 percent of the population from receiving healthcare.
Under these circumstances, many health experts consider preventive measures one of the best tools for managing chronic diseases and reduce the percentage of the population that will develop a chronic illness in their lifetime.
Technology can be a great asset in preventing diseases and managing care. But health systems benefit from interoperability, which in turns is based on predictive analysis, data management, virtual resource access, secure information availability, remote follow-ups and multidisciplinary teams. Technology can support sustainable healthcare centered around a patient using telemedicine, direct messaging tools, remote monitoring and digital platforms for medicine management, resulting in better health systems.
Furthermore, digital transformations in diagnostics and therapy systems reflect the adaptations to a changing world. AbbVie foresees an increase in remote primary care and diagnostics, AI incorporation for remote monitoring, the continued adaptation of telemedicine as the pandemic demonstrated its efficiency and an increased use of mobile device apps to improve treatment of many patients, said Tomey. By 2025, 40 percent of the hyperconnected innovation will follow social, sanitary and environmental objectives. Improving technological infrastructure will be a main priority during the next three years that associations such as medical information companies can promote.
Multiple digital tools can empower patients to make wiser decisions regarding their own health by following specialists’ advice. One of which is Patients Like Me, a platform that redefined medical attention around the patient’s experience that has over 300,000 users dealing with more than 2,300 diseases. This high participation has led to the collection of valuable data that could further advance other medical products.
Advancements in scientific and technological innovation to treat chronic diseases due to general pharmaceutical advancements in the last two years present a unique opportunity to better the lives of chronic disease patients. These should be joined with further advancements in health devices and inpatient infrastructure and a strengthening of clinical research and its connectivity to patients. There are three focus steps for future digital transformation: telemedicine, IT collaboration and AI. These technological advancements must be pushed in the education of future and current doctors to bring the best health practices for their patients in the next 15 years.